A fresh analysis of data obtained from a Nasa probe investigating Jupiter’s moon Europa has revealed that the craft passed through a monumental trail of water vapour which apparently burst out of the icy surface of the moon with so n\much force that the vapours managed to reached a height of at least a hundred miles.
This discovery has generated strong optimism among a number of scientists that this moon of Jupiter would be the most promising alien territory where there can be chances of life growing.
There are chances that future Nasa and European Space Agency (Esa) missions which are already commissioned for such projects, could also fly through such plumes of water vapor and look for signs of life if such geysers are common occurrence on Europa. It is believed that a gigantic subsurface ocean that holds almost double the amount of water in all of the oceans on Earth is the source of such water vapour.
Nasa’s Galileo spacecraft made a very close pass by over Europe – Jupiter’s moon that is about the size of Earth’s moon on 16 December 1997, on its eight year long orbit of the planet. There were unexpected signals sent back to Earth form the sensors of the spacecraft as it passed at a distance of about 250 miles of the surface of Europa. However, those signals had remained unexplained at that time.
However, following some blurred and not so good images sent by the Hubble telescope in 2016 of Europa indicated some form of plumes of water blasting from the Jupiter’s moon’s surface. This led scientists to fall back on the data sent by Galileo and started this new study. The strong measurements by the Galileo’s probe were explained by a sudden blast of water from Europa, the scientists found.
“There were some anomalous features in that close pass in December 1997 that we never fully understood,” said Margaret Kivelson, a senior scientist on the Galileo mission and emeritus professor of space physics at the University of California in Los Angeles. “We went back and looked at them more carefully and found that they were just what you’d expect if we’d flown through a plume.”
There was a sudden, brief and dramatic twist in the magnetic field and a similar increase in the density of plasma, or ionised gas as detected by the probe of Galileo as it flew over Europa at more than 2,230 mph through a plume. The precise same readings would be created by a 120-mile-high geyser bursting through the surface of Europa from one of its relatively warm patches, showed computer simulations created by Xianzhe Jia, a space scientist at the University of Michigan. The details of the work appeared in the journal Nature Astronomy.
“Our detection of a plume based on the Galileo data certainly strengthens the case for future exploration of Europa,” Jia said.
“Given the evidence of plumes available so far, there is a good chance that those spacecraft may obtain direct measurements of plumes ejecting material from the subsurface ocean into space,” said Jia. “Those observations will provide crucial information for us to assess Europa’s potential for life.”
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)